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Sox drop fifth game in last six in 4-1 loss to Royals

White Sox starter Jose Quintana of the delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Todd Frazier likes to refer to Jose Quintana as the White Sox silent assassin.

The Sox starter quietly goes about his business with the exception of the low-level grunts that Frazier can hear from his post at third base. Without anyone else hearing, Frazier knows Quintana is all business.

“He’s determined to be the bulldog that we need,” Frazier said.

For five innings Friday night, Quintana was just that, effortlessly mowing through the Kansas City Royals line-up. But then the sixth inning hit – and so did the defending World Series champions.

Quintana retired 11 straight hitters after surrendering a second-inning single before the Royals strung together five hits as part of a three-run sixth that led to a 4-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

The loss marked the fifth in six games for the suddenly struggling Sox (25-17), who saw their lead in the AL Central Division shrink to 1 ½ games over second-place Cleveland and 3 ½ games over the Royals.

In the sixth, Quintana (5-3) yielded back-to-back doubles to Omar Infante and Paulo Orlando before Alcides Escobar singled and Lorenzo Cain doubled. Cain’s double broke a 1-1 tie before Kendrys Morales delivered a two-out RBI single to score Cain.

“(Quintana) seemed to be cruising along, pitching well,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “For him, (the sixth) was the one inning that bit him tonight. (The Royals) are tough once they got it going.”

And once they got it going, Quintana couldn’t stop them.

“I missed a couple of pitches,” Quintana said. “(The hits) happen when you miss the zone – a couple of base hits. I tried to get the ground balls.”

Quintana kept the Royals off-balanced with effective off-speed offerings that made life easy for Quintana before he gave up four straight hits – including two doubles – to start the sixth.

The Royals added another run in the seventh to extend their lead. After Quintana – who scattered eight hits and struck out five – yielded back-to-back singles to start the inning, Orlando drove in a run off of reliever Zach Putnam.

Kansas City threatened to add more by loading the bases with an Escobar infield single. But Putnam avoided any more damage when Cain lined out sharply to Abreu, who tagged Escobar to end the inning.

The Sox didn’t provide Quintana with much run support over his five scoreless innings. Austin Jackson’s sacrifice fly in the second inning drove in Melky Cabrera, who led off the inning with a single. Royals starter Dillon Gee limited the Sox to only four hits over his five innings of work and struck out five and walked one before the Kansas City bullpen kept the Sox scoreless the rest of the way.

Ventura shuffled the top of his line-up before Friday’s game, moving struggling slugger Jose Abreu into the No. 2 slot behind Adam Eaton. But the move proved ineffective as Eaton, Abreu and Frazier combined to go 1-for-12. Eaton was ejected after striking out looking to end the Sox ninth.

The Sox put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh. Eaton singled and Abreu walked, but Joakim Soria got Frazier to line out to Escobar, who picked Eaton off second base to end the threat.

It proved to be the theme of the night for the Sox, who finished with only five hits.

“We had some opportunities but we didn’t do the same thing they did – being able to put it in plays and knock guys in,” Ventura said. “We had enough guys on base, we just didn’t execute enough.”

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